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Documentary about K-State’s African-American alumni premieres during Martin Luther King Jr. observance week

Monday, Jan. 13, 2014



MANHATTAN -- The College of Education has produced an insightful new documentary that tells a history of Kansas State University that has often lived below the surface of campus life.

"A Long Road: 150 Years of Collective Experience from Five African-American K-State Alumni" will premiere during Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Week, beginning Jan. 19, and will be available to faculty across campus and educators across the state and nation. The film was produced by the Midwest Equity Assistance Center, or MEAC, and was made possible by the support of a Faculty Incentive Grant from the Tilford Initiative at Kansas State University.

Tonnie Martinez, assistant professor of education, and former College of Education faculty member Albert Bimper developed the project from its inception.

"We both shared many of the same views about supporting and motivating students, and cross-cultural collaboration always makes projects better," Martinez said.

Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, applauded the efforts that went into creating this film.

"Once Tonnie’s and Albert’s vision was set, an extraordinary group of campuswide experts came together, including Myra Gordon and our videographer Rusty Earl, to capture the story and tell it with graceful honesty."

The five deeply personal stories from alumni delve into their childhoods. Then, each person shares experiences at K-State. The video participants are: Kathleen Greene, director, Education Support Services; David L. Griffin Sr., assistant dean/director, College of Education Center for Student and Professional Services; Juanita McGowan, former director, American Ethnic Studies; Charles I. Rankin, director, Midwest Equity Assistance Center; and Veryl Switzer, former administrator, Ring of Honor Athlete and distinguished alumni.

"I believe these stories are important to tell because they shed light on the richness toward understanding the depth and breadth of experiences that truly make up the past and present of the university, the community, and the people at K-State," Bimper said. "I believe powerful living truths exist around us all of the time and it was important for us to capture these individuals’ truths."

But how are stories from the past relevant to today’s students?

"Our participants' stories give us the permission and an opportunity to think about how far we have or haven’t come, what the experiences are for younger generations and how we are or aren’t effectively working toward a better tomorrow," Bimper said. "As an institution, efforts to create a culture that embraces and affirms diversity and an inclusive environment means that there must be a deep dive taken to understand how others are experiencing the world. We have to be intentional about asking vulnerable questions with a genuine interest in trying to enhance others’ experiences as well as our own."

Enhancing students’ experiences is exactly what drew Martinez to the field of multicultural education.

"As a white teacher in a highly diverse classroom, I knew that no matter how much I loved and supported my African-American and Hispanic students they probably thought, 'That advice is all well and good, but you don’t really know my journey,'" Martinez said.

This video took a major step for educators interested in crossing the cultural divide. The video and downloadable lesson plans are available free at www.meac.org.

"I hope that African-American students in Kansas and across the country will watch these pioneers and be inspired," Martinez said. "I don’t think it’s possible to experience the stories of these trailblazers and not feel a sense of obligation to make sure the path to success that they paved is still well-traveled."

To watch a trailer of the film, please go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXHBgAW06Ko.

Written by

Patrice Scott

At a glance

The College of Education has produced a documentary about the university's African-American alumni. It will premier during Martin Luther King Jr. Observance Week, beginning Jan. 19.